McLennan Precinct 2 County Commissioner candidate asks for delay in vote certification

Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 4:54 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A candidate for Precinct 2 McLennan County commissioner is asking that mail-in ballots for Tuesday’s general election be re-examined and that certification of election totals for his race be delayed because of operational irregularities by the signature verification committee.

D.L. Wilson, who lost to incumbent Precinct 2 Commissioner Pat Chisolm-Miller by 239 votes, said in a letter to McLennan County Elections Administrator Jared Goldsmith that he is considering seeking a recount in the hotly contested race.

The McLennan County Commissioners Court is scheduled to canvass the vote totals on Wednesday. However, Wilson is asking that the votes in his race not be certified until officials investigate the formation and operation of the mail-in ballot signature verification committee.

The committee, which by statute should have five to six members, is tasked with comparing voter signatures on mail-in ballot applications with those on the mail-in envelopes to ensure the proper person cast the ballot. There were only two members of the committee who reviewed the mail-in ballot signatures, officials have said.

According to vote totals reported by the county elections office, there is a total of 607 absentee ballots case, with Chisolm-Miller getting 412 of those and Wilson getting 195 mail-in votes. Chisolm-Miller won re-election with a total of 5,354 votes and 51.14 percent of the vote. Wilson got 5,115 votes for 48.86 percent.

The committee has not been appointed in this county before for a general election, and was formed by Goldsmith to give voters who had problems submitting their mail-in ballots an opportunity to be contacted in an effort to correct the problems and make sure their votes count, said Mike Dixon, a longtime attorney for McLennan County.

“The county is not technically required to have a signature verification committee,” Dixon said. “We did it because (Goldsmith) wanted to give people who had problems on their ballot and envelope the opportunity to rehabilitate it and come in and give an explanation about what created any issues with it.”

Goldsmith did not return phone calls from KWTX on Thursday and Friday.

McLennan County Republican Party Chairman Brad Holland brought the irregularities to Goldsmith’s attention, including the fact that there were just two members on the committee, one Republican and one Democrat, that their meeting was not posted on the county website and that no poll watchers were allowed to attend.

“We asked for those things to be remedied and they agreed,” Holland said. “We have not sought the exclusion of any ballots. We just wanted them to be compliant with the review process. We made our candidates aware of this and that is where we are as a party on this. What the individual candidates do from there is up to them.”

Chisolm-Miller declined comment Friday on Wilson’s request, saying, “I am just going to allow the process to play out.”

Wilson said he was notified of the potential problem on Monday. He said he raised the concerns so the issues can be corrected and the problems won’t be repeated in future elections.

“There are 239 votes in a very highly contested contest between me and Ms. Miller, so it’s close,” Wilson said. “We have never been this close on a commissioner’s race ever, so it is pretty important for the rural area and the Waco area to get the results in a proper manner.”

Dixon, the county’s attorney, was researching election laws Friday morning to help resolve the issues.

In past elections, the Secretary of State has directed officials that if the numbers on the envelope and the ballot matched, there was a presumption that the signature was correct, Dixon said.

With the formation of the signature verification committee, mail-in ballots with perceived problems often can be resolved by contacting the person who cast the ballot before votes are counted on election day, ensuring that their votes are counted, Dixon said. As Dixon reads the statute, the county is not required to create the committee unless the early voting clerk calls for it or the county receives a petition from the public before Oct. 1 asking for the creation of the committee.

“We will make sure that these problems don’t occur from here on out, but this was something we’ve not had before and it was set up solely for the purpose of helping the voter,” Dixon said. “Moving forward, we will have a special order from the authorities who are authorized to call for the committee and meetings when they review the ballots will be posted and each party will be allowed to have poll watchers there. But this is nothing that should affect the outcome of the election.”